John Garrett has served the people of Lovelace Ward with distinction for many years. He has a proud record of public service in Guildford and in Wandsworth.
A little while back he was struck by cancer. As part of the recovery process he has undergone a lengthy period of chemotherapy followed by a hip transplant. Understandably his attendance at Guildford Borough Council has been curtailed.
Guildford Borough Council states
‘the minimum requirement in relation to attendance is set by Section 85 of the Local Government Act 1972, which provides that if a councillor fails to attend any meeting of the Council (including committees and sub-committees) throughout a period of six consecutive calendar months from the date of his last attendance, he ceases to be a councillor unless the failure was due to some reason approved by the Council before the expiry of that period.’
It also states that it has approved John Garrett’s absence:
‘The Council, at its meeting on 11 April 2013 considered a report which drew councillors’ attention to Cllr Garrett’s failure to attend any meeting since 16 October 2012. The Council agreed that the reason for Cllr Garrett’s failure to attend was due to his ill health and noted that he was unlikely to attend any further meeting of the Council for the following six months for the same reason.
Cllr Garrett subsequently attended meetings of the full Council on 4 July 2013, 12 December 2013 and on 26 February 2014 (the date of his last attendance).’
No one will wish to add to John’s suffering. However a desire to understand his very difficult position is not inconsistent with allowing his Ward to be actively represented on the Council.
At present Council rules state that a councillor may only vote in person. Votes cannot be delegated or delivered by proxy or by post.
The effect of this is to disenfranchise Lovelace Ward. This is an undemocratic and unethical result. It should not be tolerated.
The council should not on the one hand grant permission for absence (for at least one whole year) and on the other hand fail to put in place measures to protect the legitimate interests of the electors of Lovelace Ward.
Why is this so important?
Because Lovelace Ward has been chosen in the draft Local Plan as the site of a new town. This is a revolutionary proposal for Lovelace Ward. If approved it would involve building roughly as many houses as in the whole of East and West Horsley. It will result in three times more houses than in the whole of Ripley.
The natural tendency of some local politicians is to approve of ‘growth’ provided that it does not adversely affect the amenity of their own residents. This may be unprincipled. But it is the way some politicians act – even if it is not the talk they talk.
It is too easy for the majority of the Council to approve a new town in a ward which is not represented.
This is an astonishing situation. There should be a law against it.
But it does not take a law to put this matter right. It probably only takes the exercise of the discretion of the Leader of the Council. He could presumably allow John Garrett to nominate a ‘spokesperson’ to speak on behalf of his ward and to cast his vote.
Why will not the Leader of GBC do this? Is it because he does not have this in his discretion? If he does not have this within hs discretion presumably he commands a majority in the Council and could ask the Council to vote it through?
There is a less attractive explanation for this intolerable situation. It is that the Council Executive has given its backing to the developer of the site in question and is promoting the site in the draft Local Plan as a site for a new town.
Moreover the developer in question is promoting the idea that land within Lovelace Ward should be removed from the Green Belt to permit this new town and that land in Ash and Tongham should be substituted.
This ‘swapping’ of parcels of Green Belt land is highly improper. Exceptional circumstances must be shown both to add and to subtract land from the Green Belt. Moreover land in Ash presumably does not serve the purpose of London’s Metropolitan Green Belt? Why is such a swap mentioned in the draft Local Plan? The fact that at least two members of the Council Executive (including the Leader) represent Ash and Tongham presumably has nothing to do with it?
The people of Lovelace ward have a right to representation – especially at this critical moment in the history of the ward when its character could be destroyed forever.
Why does GBC allow this unethical and unprincipled situation to persist? It is a scandal.